France Wants To Tax ISPs To Fund Music, Add Streaming To Three-Strikes Law

Away from the Eurozone crisis, France’s president Nicolas Sarkozy has come up with one way to raise more funds in his country for one struggling media sector: taxing another one that appears to be doing alright. And in a speech to other European politicians, he said he also wanted to extend the country’s anti-piracy regulation, Hadopi, to cover streaming services, too.

According to reports in the French press (here, here and here are three links), Sarkozy, during a speech in Avignon during a culture confab with European politicians, laid out plans to create a national center of music that would be funded by taxes on ISPs.

He also discussed the possibility of a new extension to the country’s Hadopi laws to cover streaming.

The speech follows on from a proposal sent to the Minister of Culture, Frederic Mitterand, in September for the tax and creation of the Centre National de Musique.

This is not the first time that France has proposed taxes on online business to fund the music industry. Last year, the Zelnik report, masterminded by music industry executive Patrick Zelnik, proposed taxes on online ads and ISPs, with the proceeds to be used for special cards to be distributed to the French public to spend on “legitimate content.”

In both the current tax proposal and Zelnik’s, the idea is that traffic across the internet to consume streamed music and other forms of free content, both legal and illegal, are making it impossible for the originators of that content to monetize it properly.

The Zelnik report did not seem to get very far, although France did go ahead with its content card proposal.

This more recent proposal seems to have a closer, existing precedent: There is already an arrangement between TV channels and the film industry in the country, in which revenues from commercial TV operators are funnelled into film production.

In that case, many TV channels produce their own films, while in the case of ISPs and the music industry, the money would go to a new organization that would distribute those funds to musicians and music performances.

Hadopi. Later in the speech, Sarkozy turned his attention to Hadopi. He noted that since the introduction of three-strikes law, piracy in France had been reduced by 35 percent.

But since the law was introduced, the growth of fast broadband, and better streaming technology, has given rise to a new piracy threat, from the likes of Megavideo and other streaming sites that distribute unauthorized premium content for free online.

The mention of policing streamed content is only that so far — a mention. At this point it is not illegal in France to watch pirated streamed content, and according to this report from the AFP, apparently it is still hard to track, too.

For starters, it would require cooperation from ISPs, something that we are already starting to see in some countries like the UK.